Sabiri seeking more World Cup history for Morocco

Morocco midfielder Abdelhamid Sabiri speaks to FIFA ahead of the Atlas Lions’ semi-final against France.

  • Abdelhamid Sabiri has been starring for Morocco at Qatar 2022

  • The Atlas Lions have become the first African team to reach the last four

  • Sabiri tells FIFA what has made the tournament’s surprise package so successful

    For most Morocco fans, pinching themselves no longer cuts the mustard. The Atlas Lions’ exploits at Qatar 2022 have, after all, now gone past the ‘I must be dreaming’ stage to surpassing those supporters’ wildest fantasies.

    Abdelhamid Sabiri, though, admits to having dreamt bigger than most. “You always have dreams you keep to yourself,” he told FIFA. “And you can’t decide what you dream, so you dream of winning the World Cup.”

    The midfielder knows, of course, that there is also a value in realism. “When you wake up, you think, ‘Ok, first step by step’,” he added. “But for Morocco to reach the semi-finals is something big. It has never happened before that an African team has reached the semi-finals. This was obviously also our goal – we wanted to do something historic in this World Cup. And yes, I hope we can make more history.”

    There is, of course, an imposing barrier standing between Morocco and Sabiri’s dreams of FIFA World Cup™ glory. Holders France, led by the irrepressible Kylian Mbappe, a rejuvenated Antoine Griezmann and the record-breaking Olivier Giroud, go into the sides’ semi-final as overwhelming favourites. However, as Sabiri is quick to point out in this interview, slaying giants has become something of a happy habit for the Atlas Lions.

    FIFA: Abdelhamid, what does reaching the semi-finals mean to you?
    Abdelhamid Sabiri: For me, it’s an incredible feeling. To know where I come from, a small city called Goulmima – a very small place even for Morocco – and now to reach a World Cup semi-final, it’s incredible. I am proud to be part of this, and thankful to everyone who supported me along the way.

    You’ve made history as the first African team to reach a World Cup semi-final. As a squad, have you processed what this means for Africa and also the Arab world?
    Yes, as players we talk about it, what we’re doing right now, because most of the players – like me – can’t really understand (the enormity of the achievement). To do this for all Arabian counties and the African continent is an amazing thing. As I said before, I’m happy to be part of it and very excited.

    Much of your success is due to your coach and the way he prepares you for each game. Can you describe his attention to detail and how he makes a game-plan for each opponent?
    I don’t believe we have a [different] plan for every opponent. We have our game-plan and the most important thing is sticking to our formation. We always play well defensively as you can see. We’ve conceded only one goal, which was an own goal, so the work we’re doing in defence is perfect. Offensively, we will always have our chances too and will try to use them. The coach always gives confidence to each player to play good football.

    How will you go about beating the reigning world champions?
    Of course, France are a big team, but so are Portugal, Spain, Belgium and all the teams we played in this World Cup. We will go into the game, as always, knowing we are the underdogs because they have more history than we do. But for us it doesn’t matter – we go on the pitch to win, to win for the country and for all the people who support us.